Apple responds to user location controversy

The response, which goes into some depth as to why the Jobsian giant is collating the data – albeit with permission from the T&Cs that users agree to when using an iOS-driven device – goes some way to defusing the anger amongst Apple’s users, Infosecurity notes.

Firstly, says Apple, the iPhone does not store user locations, but rather "a database of WiFi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested."

Some of this data, says Apple, comes from a crowd-sourced database that is compiled from other iPhone users.

Interestingly, Apple admits that the entire crowd-sourced database is too big to store on an iPhone, so the mobile device downloads "an appropriate subset (cache) onto each iPhone which is protected, but not encrypted, and is backed up to iTunes."

The company also claims that the data is pooled an on anonymous basis, and then encrypted on its servers.

According to Apple, when the location services option (GPS) is turned off on the iOS-driven device, the data should not be stored. That it is, the firm admits, a bug and a software update will be issued shortly to counter the problem.

This update, adds the company, will also encrypt the datafiles held on the mobile device, meaning that individual user security will be enhanced, Infosecurity notes.

In its lengthy Q&A response, Apple says that it provides anonymised crash logs from users that have opted in to third-party developers to help them debug their apps.

"Our iAds advertising system can use location as a factor in targeting ads. Location is not shared with any third party or ad unless the user explicitly approves giving the current location to the current ad", says the company.

In its final sign-off, Apple stresses it believes that personal information security and privacy are important, and that the iPhone was the first mobile to ask users to give their permission for each and every app that wanted to use a location.

"Apple will continue to be one of the leaders in strengthening personal information security and privacy", says the company.

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